How to Train a German Shepherd to Not Chase Cats

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Sherry’s neighbor Sarah has a beautiful Siamese cat. Sherry has a beautiful German Shepherd. Unfortunately, the two animals do not get on beautifully! Sherry’s Shepherd chases Sarah’s Siamese at every opportunity. Usually, it is not a huge problem, as Sherry keeps her dog in a fenced yard, but yesterday, the gate was left open, and the Shepherd got out, saw the cat and chased it into the street. Both animals narrowly missed being hit by cars, much to Sherry and Sarah's horror, as they watched on, helpless to stop a near disaster!  

Even if you keep your German Shepherd in an enclosed area and on a leash, he can get loose sometimes, or a cat can end up in your yard. Perhaps you want to introduce a cat to your home. Whatever the cat scenario, teaching your German Shepherd not to chase cats is important for the cats' safety, and your dog's. A dog hell-bent on chasing a cat may not notice other dangers, like traffic, that could result in his injury as well.

Defining Tasks

German Shepherds are large, energetic, strong, intelligent, and often dominant and prey driven dogs. This means they are very likely to chase cats in their home, yard or neighborhood. Because of their size, a German Shepherd that is aggressive to cats can pose a serious danger to a cat. Even if your German Shepherd only wants to play, a 100-pound Shepherd that lands on a 10-pound cat can severely injure or even kill a cat unintentionally, not to mention the danger that both animals could encounter during the chase from traffic or by becoming separated from owners and homes. For these reasons, you are going to want to teach your German Shepherd not to chase cats. The appropriate response when your Shepherd encounters a cat in your home or neighborhood is to either ignore the cat or wait in a non-threatening and friendly position for the cat to approach him--that is, if the cat wants to. Cats can be rather uncooperative when your dog just wants to be friends!

Getting Started


To teach your German Shepherd not to chase cats, you will probably need to engage a cat. If you have a cat in your home, you can work with your cat. Otherwise, you may need to find someone with a cat that is willing to help out. Choosing a cat with a little bit of attitude, that is not afraid of large dogs, will help tremendously. A cat that does not run is hard to chase. Be sure, however, to protect both animals during training. You don't want your volunteer cat to be injured by an aggressive Shepherd, or even a playful one, and you don't want your Shepherd to end up with a badly scratched face from an irritated feline. Using barriers, leashes, and a hard sided carrier when working with the animals to provide protection is advised. Using treats or toys to distract and reinforce calm, non-chasing behavior during training will be required.

The Reinforce Ignore Method

Most Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Crate the cat
Make sure your “ volunteer cat” is protected inside a hard sided crate or carrier. If possible, find a volunteer cat that is not afraid of large dogs, and not liable to become agitated in the crate.
Step
2
Distract the dog
Introduce your German Shepherd to the cat in the crate. Keep your Shepherd distracted when he investigates the crate. Call him away from the crate, play with a toy, and provide treats when he comes to you. Practice tricks and obedience commands give your Shepherd a job to do.
Step
3
Block the dog
If the dog tries to get at the cat in the crate, step between your dog and the crate, then step toward your Shepherd to create space.
Step
4
Reinforce ignore
When your German Shepherd focuses on you, and not the cat, resume giving attention, play and treats. Wait until your dog learns to ignore the presence of the cat in the carrier.
Step
5
Increase access
Put your German Shepherd on a leash and let the cat out of the carrier. Continue to insist your Shepherd focuses on you and not the cat. Play, practice commands, and treat your dog for ignoring the cat. Redirect as required.
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The How to Be Friends Method

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Step
1
Teach 'down-stay'
Teach your German Shepherd a strong down-stay command using positive reinforcement. Practice often and in a variety of environments until well established.
Step
2
Introduce cat
Use a brave “volunteer cat” or your own cat, in a hard sided carrier or behind a barrier, like a baby gate.
Step
3
Correct dog's behavior
Bring your German Shepherd, on a leash, over to the cat. When your German Shepherd sees the cat and lunges toward it, say “no” in a loud, firm voice and restrain with the leash by pulling to the side. Avoid pulling back on leash, which creates tension.
Step
4
Use 'down-stay'
Tell your Shepherd to go into a 'down-stay' position with the cat in the container or behind barrier. If your dog resists, create space between your dog and the cat until your dog obeys the 'down-stay' command. Gradually bring your dog closer as long as he obeys 'down-stay' until he remains in 'down-stay' in close proximity to the cat in the crate. When your dog is performing down-stay and is calm, provide treats praise and affection
Step
5
Release cat
Now let the cat out to approach your dog, if it chooses. Let the cat walk around and investigate your dog, continue to insist on the 'down-stay' position. Keep your dog on a leash or increase distance from the cat as necessary to achieve this. If the cat approaches your dog, let your dog sniff the cat and make friends, but ask your dog to remain lying down. If the cat ignores your dog, provide reinforcement in the form of praise and treats to your dog for remaining calm and staying down.
Recommend training method?

The Negative Association Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Set up stimulus collar
Occasionally you may not have access to a cat to train your dog, but you frequently encounter cats in your yard or on walks. If your German Shepherd is aggressive towards cats and you need to establish not chasing cats before a pet gets hurt, fit your dog with an electronic stimulus collar and hold a whistle. Make sure the collar is on the lowest effective setting.
Step
2
Warn your dog
Take your German Shepherd out on a walk. When your dog sees a cat and lunges toward it, blow the whistle and day "no!"
Step
3
Provide negative consequence
If your Shepherd does not respond and continues trying to get at the cat, engage the collar.
Step
4
Repeat as required
Repeat until your dog learns that trying to reach a cat has unpleasant consequences.
Step
5
Use in an enclosed area
When your dog is in your enclosed yard, fit him with stimulus collar and supervise. When a neighbor's cat comes into the yard and your dog notices the cat and moves towards it, blow the whistle and engage electronic collar if necessary to discourage your dog from pursuing the cat. When your Shepherd has learned to avoid cats he will be safer if he encounters one while loose in an open area, as he will be unlikely to chase the cat and end up in danger.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Axle
German Shepherd
4 Years
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Question
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Axle
German Shepherd
4 Years

I have a German Shepherd who is nearly 4 years old. He is a big mama's boy and has had me to himself for most of his life. Recently we took on 2 kittens. Axle seems torn between jealousy and playful curiosity. He usually listens well to me when i use the "come" "sit" and "down-stay" commands. However, now he seems more focused on the kittens than he is on my commands. He will whine when we hold the kittens and don't allow him to come close. When we do allow supervised close encounters he playfully nudges with his nose but his play can turn to rough for the kittens. Only when the kittens run do i notice a prey drive kick in. I want Axle to understand the Kittens are not toys or prey. What is the best training method for this? I would like to avoid any training techniques that involve a stimulant collar as it has been my own experience a stimulant collar can cause a dog to show agression even when used properly. Thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rozilyn, First, set up fast paced, focused training session with Axle, with the kittens in the background. Keep him on a leash or have the kittens somewhere where he cannot get to them, but they are able to move around at least a little bit. If you have someone who can handle the kittens then you be the one to handle Axle and have the other person keep up with the kittens. Work on his obedience and reward focus on you heavily. Whenever he starts fixating on the kittens during training, tell him "Ah Ah", then get him moving and focused on you again by giving him something to do that takes all of his focus, like a faced paced "Heel" with lots of turns and speed changes. You want to accomplish two things by doing this. The first is to refresh his obedience around this new distraction, so that he will continue listening to you around the cats. The second is for the cats to become more boring and for him to learn to tune out their presence and movement, and to become more motivated to focus on you instead. Whenever he starts to get too fixated on the kittens in general, give him an "Out" command. Tell him "Out", point to where you want him to go, then get between him and the kittens and walk toward him, until he leaves the area. Once he is out of the area, continue to block his way, until he gives up on trying to get around you and go back. Once he has left the area and given up, sat down, or laid down, then you can return to the kittens. If he follows you back, which he likely will do at first, then quickly get in front of him again and firmly walk toward him until he is out of the area again. Picture yourself as a soccer goalie or a brick wall when you do this. Repeat walking toward him to make him leave the area as many times as you have to for him to learn not to come back in. When he has calmed back down and you want to bring him over again, then tell him "Okay", and let him come back in when he is calm. If he gets to rowdy, then make him leave again. His pass back in is his calmness. You can also teach Axle a "Place" command, and really work on enforcing that command. Screw an eye hook into the baseboard securely, attach a leash to the eye hook and Axle, and work on your "Place" command with the kittens moving around, once Axle can do the "Place" command for long periods of time with you dancing and running around, without the kittens there. When he stays on the place, then toss him treats from where you are to reward his tolerance and calmness. Get in front of him and interrupt his behavior if he starts barking, fixating, or trying to get off the place to get to the kittens. Learning to stay on the place with the kittens around will teach him how to control his own impulses. It will also give you safer opportunities to work on rewarding his correct response toward the kittens. Watch his body language when you practice this. At first, simply reward any progress and good effort on his part. As he improves, you want to gradually reward his body language and state of mind, to increase his calm behavior and tolerance around the kittens. Time will tell if he will learn to accept the kittens as family instead of prey. Some dogs that are not immediately bent on killing the other animal, can learn with guidance and time that the cats are part of the family and should not be harmed. Some dogs can never make that switch if not introduced while young. It sounds like Axle mostly just wants to play, so I strongly suggest trying to work toward progress, but do be careful and continue to always supervise at this stage. Do not trust him alone with the cats anytime soon, even if he is making progress. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Angel
German Shepherd
5 Years
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Question
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Angel
German Shepherd
5 Years

I have a five year old German Shepherd he is great he listens to me very well. He has always had a issue with the cats we have 3 cats today he grabbed the cat and was shaking it like a toy it was horrific. Idk how I should punish him for this? How I teach him this isn’t ok.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Krystal, It sounds like Angel is prey driven towards the cats. Unfortunately that is not as simple as punishing him. He needs to learn high distraction self-control around the cats, he also needs to receive a lot of positive reinforcement for choosing to leave the cats alone to motivate him to do something besides chase the cats. Finally, he should never be left alone with the cats because when you are not around if his issue really is prey driven, he may still chase the cats and harm them without your presence to enforce them. Look for a trainer who is very experienced with remote electric collars and can work on high level obedience around the cat's with the cats moving. A place command, a leave-it command, and an "Out" command, which means leave the area, should all be taught using positive reinforcement, then when Angel is very good at those commands, the e-collar can be used to practice those commands in the presence of the cats and enforce those commands even when you are around the corner, where you can see him but he cannot see you. To practice this without harming the cats, you will need to get Angel used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle, and to start with yourself close by and him on a leash, until he can do it with less and less help, but still a muzzle just in case. When he gets to the point where he can leave the cats alone part of the time when they move about, then reward him heavily for choosing to ignore them whenever you see him do it. This part is just as important as the high distraction e-collar training. Finally, practice the training when he can do it consistently without you present, when he cannot see you but you are watching him from somewhere hidden but close by where you can enforce the training. When you cannot supervise the animals together, then they must be confined apart. You cannot remove prey drive. You can only manage it. With all of this, you should see a lot of progress with the right trainer helping you and hard work, but honestly there is no guarantee that he will stop completely, and never have slip-ups since the cats are so close all the time. Most avoidance training that is taught around other animals like chickens and livestock give the dog the ability to avoid the animal when they choose to. This helps the dog self-regulate and make the right choice. Having a dog and cats that he wants to attack so close all the time keeps the dog under constant pressure and the dog may still fail at times. When you use e-collar training you want to use only a high quality e-collar that has at least forty-levels. A cheaply made collar can be dangerous. Garmin, Dogtra, SportDog, and E-collar Technologies are reputable brands. Do not simply strap a collar on a dog and start using it. You can make the problem worse when you do not know how to use it, fit it, and train with it. Hire a professional to help you and spend time learning about e-collar training and positive reinforcement. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Mazzy
German Shepherd
15 Months
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Question
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Mazzy
German Shepherd
15 Months

Mazzy was adopted by me in March.. she was cat tested and was found to be fine... personally I dont think she had ever lived with a cat.. she showed prey drive toward my cat and my room mates chi... she is fine with the chi now.. so progress.. we do not allow free interaction as she plays very rough.. she had met other dogs and is fine with them... but she will be "in their face" until they warn her with a growl or snap and then she backs off or shows submissive behavior..she is not allow around the cat unless she is on a leash.. she trys to chase and gets really hyped up when the cat is around.. I am too afraid to let her off leash.. I really do think she is playing.. but I have seen her around dogs she wants to play with .. and she is really really overbearing... she does not seem to get that they do not want to play as rough as her until they snap at her... she is really a very sweet dog.. loves people, children, basically everything. ( she is not aloof) when I take her hiking. she spends a huge amount of time trying to chase bugs and and looks for chip monks..everywhere.. so she definitely has a prey drive.. My daughters cattle dog mix has a prey drive too.. but has peacefully accepted my daughters cat.. the are now the best of friends.. do you think there is hope?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Angie, I would have to evaluate Mazzy's prey drive to give you a better answer. It sounds like it might be possible to get to the point where Mazzie and your cat could be in the same room while you are present. I would probably always separate them while you are gone though. To get to the point where they could possibly be together you would need to get Mazzie used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle for safety reasons. The muzzle would be worn during interactions while Mazzie is on a loose leash, just in case she decides to Chase and pounce still, since she is still dangerous with her large size. The muzzle would take the threat of a deadly bite away though so that you could work on interactions more safely. Done right, the muzzle should be comfortable for her to wear and not traumatic. I would also recommend hiring a trainer who is used using "working level" electric collar, e-collar, training. Working level means tailoring the stimulation to your specific dog by testing out what the lowest level is that she will respond to. A good trainer should know how to do this. Avoid anyone who can't when it comes to e-collar's. You want to find a trainer that is used to using high quality electric collars on low levels of stimulation combined with obedience and positive reinforcement to modify behavior. Essentially someone who can teach her what not to do and also what to do by combining the e-collar corrections with communication and rewards. You would teach Mazzie to "leave it" and "out" commands and use the e-collar to enforce your commands to help Mazzie calm down and snap out of her cat fixation. Doing this, you can build a calmer response in her and then reward her calm, correct behavior to teach her to act that way instead of overly intense around the cat. All of this should be done very calmly, not with too much excitement because she will feed off of your own emotions. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that she can overcome her cat fixation. If her response to the cat is to chase and play with it, then this training should help a lot with that behavior. If she wants to kill and eat the cat, then she may never be safe around it. A good trainer should be able to help you evaluate her though and decide if she might be able to overcome it during the first couple of sessions. To get her used to wearing the soft silicone basket muzzle, show her the muzzle during her meal time and feed her a piece of kibble everytime she snifs it, let's you touch it to her, or let's you put it on her. Start with simply showing her the muzzle and as she gets comfortable with it, gradually touch and hold it against her face more and more over the next two or three weeks, until you can finally put it on her, feed her treats through the muzzle's holes, and have her wear it around for up to an hour and she will stay relaxed and calm about it being on her face. Go slow and keep the training really fun with treats like kibble, or meat if she needs the extra encouragement. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Galbi
German Shepherd
5 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Galbi
German Shepherd
5 Years

My dog always wants to attack my cat and various animals he sees as prey. He is well trained when we are with him but when he is alone with another animal it is dangerous.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, You can teach a dog to avoid cats outside using electric collar training done correctly. You can raise a dog to like cats while young. You can manage a dog's behavior through training while with the dog, but the only completely safe option for a dog that has prey drive and intends to kill a cat while you are away is to keep the animals safely confined, where one cannot get to the other one. Prey drive is an inborn natural instinct and things like noise and movement from another animal can trigger it. It is not something you can get rid of. Only something you manage and white gone you cannot safely manage it without confinement. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Training Success Stories

Success
Toby
German Shepherd
8 Years

Our boy has been great with cats! We got him as a pup so he has always been raised with cats and him and the cats have always been the best of friends. They play together and sleep together and we have other dogs in the house. We lost the two cats he grew up with and adopted a kitten and they became fast friends. So if you have cats don't be intimidated about getting a German Shepard because A) they are the best companion you can have and B) they are smart so if they see you loving on another family member they will love them just the same and be loyal to them as you are.

6 days, 7 hours ago
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